Future drive technologies.
Future drive technologies.
( Bild: gemeinfrei / Unsplash)

drive technologies Equal support for fuel cell and battery vehicles

Author / Editor: Lili Bähr / Florian Richert

A study by VDI and VDE examines relevant technical, ecological and economic aspects of fuel cell and battery vehicles. For the electric mobility of tomorrow, the associations demand equal support for both technologies.

Electric mobility makes an important contribution to achieving the environmental and climate policy goals of the Paris Convention. For the VDI and VDE, however, the current discussion concentrates too much on battery vehicles. These alone are not sufficient to achieve the energy and environmental policy goals of the Federal Government.

Fuel cells for tomorrow's electric mobility

The newVDI/VDE study "Fuel Cell and Battery Vehicles" (in German) shows that fuel cell-based electromobility not only takes a significant step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions but is also easier to implement. "Fuel cell vehicles are a necessary element for the e-mobility of tomorrow. The fuel hydrogen can be flexibly produced, stored and transported from renewable energies," says Martin Pokojski, Chairman of the VDI/VDE Technical Committee "Hydrogen and Fuel Cells". He is the co-author of the study, which evaluates the two technologies according to relevant technical, ecological and economic aspects. Instead of promoting just one technology, politics and industry should focus on both systems.

Advantages of the fuel cell

Compared to battery-powered vehicles (BEV), fuel cell vehicles (FCEV) are expected to offer several advantages: According to the study, they achieve long ranges more easily and cost-effectively, their refueling times are comparable to today's standard for petrol or diesel and higher payloads are possible. "Another advantage of hydrogen technology is its easier implementation since existing structures can be used and existing filling stations can be expanded accordingly," explains Dr. Andreas Schamel, co-author of the study. Schamel continues: "The infrastructure investments for BEV are lower than for FCEV with low market penetration. But the picture turns with greater market penetration. Therefore, a mixture of both systems - BEV for shorter distances and FCEV for long distances - could result in a cost optimum".

No CO2 reduction without renewable energies

However, the desired reduction in CO2 emissions can only be achieved if the electricity for charging the battery and producing hydrogen comes from renewable sources. Prof. Angelika Heinzel from the Centre for Fuel Cell Technology in Duisburg and also co-author of the study: "It is also relevant how the raw materials are obtained and how the batteries and fuel cells are produced. Careful analyses of energy consumption and CO2 emissions over the entire life cycle and an increase in the recycling rate are also indispensable. Both technologies require raw materials that are not available indefinitely."

The fuel cell as an opportunity for German manufacturers

In addition to the energetic efficiency of the drive train and the raw material requirements of the battery and fuel cell, Heinzel has a special focus on the consumption of resources and space for the required infrastructures - such as power lines and charging stations, gas pipelines, and hydrogen filling stations.

"Both technologies will be introduced in the future in segments of the mobility sector: Fuel cell vehicles will initially be used in fleet vehicles and long-range vehicles. In contrast to battery production, the fuel cell still has to overcome the hurdle of series production, which can be a great opportunity for German manufacturers".

Incentive systems and infrastructure development necessary

The authors of the study agree: The German government must quickly create incentive systems for fuel cell and battery vehicles and set up infrastructures in equal measure. This includes promoting the market ramp-up of electric vehicles through the conversion of vehicle fleets, the expansion of the hydrogen infrastructure through the implementation of the 400 hydrogen filling stations planned uniformly throughout Germany, and the inclusion of hydrogen as an energy carrier in the cross-sector long-term strategy for secured energy supply. "And last but not least, for our competitiveness in Germany, we need a timely construction of production facilities for fuel cells and batteries. Politicians must create suitable framework conditions for this," Pokojski is certain.

This article was first published in German by Elektrotechnik.